July 24, 2024

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What science says: comprehensiveness

What science says: comprehensiveness

“It's very frustrating,” says one recruiter after a DEI panel discussion (Diversity, Equality and Inclusion). “We must ensure more diversity in the organisation, because that increases creativity and innovation in teams. So a large part of our recruitment process is anonymous, which means we hire from a very diverse group. But when you see that the majority of your ‘diverse employees’ are leaving “The company before the end of the year, it seems a bit pointless.” She sighs deeply. “Then they open a new vacancy, but it's not as weird as last time, right? Aargh…what are we doing wrong?”

What does science say?

First and foremost, it is a good idea to recruit more diverse profiles structurally (e.g. through an anonymous recruitment process). prejudice Circumventing biases simply by being “aware of them” does not work. On the contrary, after training aimed at raising awareness of prejudice,… Biases It is even more difficult (Kahneman et al., 2011).

But also that diversity and inclusion are two different things. Diversity means the presence of differences in a group. Objective evaluation. For example, the team can be very diverse in terms of age, specialty, or cultural background. On the other hand, inclusion represents the experience of group members, that they belong to that group and have a unique contribution. So a subjective experience. A newly hired team member can experience inclusion when the team takes him to his favorite lunch spot (“You're one of us now!”) while also being interested in his new colleague's unique history (“Oh, we'll do that”). You can learn a lot from your marketing experience!') (Shore et al., 2011).

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To experience inclusion, employees must feel like they belong and are unique. When they are Good To feel special, but not They belong, they don't feel included. This sometimes happens to temporary workers or consultants: Team members are happy for the extra help and new insights, but they don't make any effort to connect with the person. Conversely, when employees Good They feel they can belong, but not It may be unique, and it doesn't feel included. This sometimes happens to newcomers in very tight-knit teams or organizations: to be accepted, they must adapt to the norms of the group. Above all, don't be too weird about different ideas, hair color or work habits.

Maybe this is where the problem lies in organizing my conversation partner. New people starting after the hiring process differ from existing team members on a number of relevant dimensions. They were chosen for this because it increases the diversity of the team. But current team members may not want that at all. They want someone who will fit well into the team (read: the same or like them).The attraction of similarity; Byrne 1971). Newcomers implicitly receive the message: “If you want to belong, you have to become like us.” This was not the intention.

What can HR professionals and managers do to promote inclusion?

By emphasizing the following, HR professionals and leaders can facilitate and enhance inclusion in teams (Homan, 2018; Kearney et al., 2009).

  • Team members are more open to different colleagues if they see the value of this diversity, for example because they realize that the customers they have to serve are also very different. Or because they experience the richness of the advice provided by the project group when the problem is viewed from several different lenses. Uniqueness becomes an asset.
  • Being so different from each other is also less difficult when there is an important common goal. Developing a new vaccine, for example. Or design an IT system that will make the lives of hundreds of colleagues easier. Differences become secondary to the greater goal.
  • “In similarities we connect, in differences we grow” (Virginia Satir): By searching for what we have in common, group cohesion grows. For example, we all love good food. Or take a look at the examples in Al-Jameel TV 2 | Everything We Share (youtube.com)). The differences are less clear.
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In addition, it is important to pay attention to the “horizontal alignment” of your organization’s diversity strategy. For optimal impact, the implicit message presented during the hiring process must resonate throughout the organization. And also in leadership training, in the evaluation process, and in the way teams or departments communicate. If this common thread does not exist, recruiting solely for the sake of diversity will not make any sense.

Guest author: Kathleen Vangronsvelt, Antwerp Management School


Byrne, D. (1971). Attraction model. New York: Academic Press.

Homan, A.C. (2018) “Four Differences!” The Many Faces of Diversity', Behavior and Organization (3), 281-304.

Kahneman, D., Lovallo, D., and Siboney, O. (2011). Before you make that big decision. Harvard Business Review, June, p. 51-60

Kearney, E., Guibert, D., and Voelbel, S. C. (2009). When and how diversity benefits teams: The importance of team members' need for awareness. Academy of Management Journal, 52: 581-598.

Shore, L.M., Randel, A.E., Chung, B.G., Dean, M.A., Holcombe Ehrhart, K., & Singh, G. (2011). Inclusion and diversity in work groups: A review and model for future research. Journal of Management, 37, 1262-1289.